Many were surprised when Eddie Murphy was named host of the upcoming 84th Annual Academy Awards. The job usually goes to well-liked Hollywood vets like Billy Crystal, Bob Hope, and Johnny Carson, while Murphy has a checkered history with the Academy, first by blasting Hollywood for its racism at the 1988 telecast, and most recently by walking out of the awards after losing his 2006 Best Supporting Actor bid for “Dreamgirls” to Alan Arkin (“Little Miss Sunshine”). Nevertheless, Gold Derby editor Tom O’Neil believes Murphy is an inspired choice. What do other Oscar-watchers think?
SASHA STONE, AWARDS DAILY: “It doesn’t change the real demographics of how the Oscars go down — five white male director nominees, writers, actors, etc. But hey, hats off to them for this, I think. What the hell. How much worse could it get than last year’s horror show?”
PETE HAMMOND, DEADLINE: “For the Academy, it gives them the opportunity to return to the tradition of having a stand-up comic host the show, which has always worked best, and in Murphy they have one who is a movie star, an Oscar-nominated actor (for ‘Dreamgirls’ in 2006), and a guy whose past experience on ‘Saturday Night Live’ and his stage gigs gives him the chops to pull this off — and a reason for the audience to tune in.”
JEFF WELLS, HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE: “Unless he’s turned into the new Mort Sahl I wonder where he could take his monologue within a straight-jacketed network TV broadcast. Plus Murphy has never been a social-cultural commentator type — he riffs about his own realm. Plus I don’t feel Murphy is really part of the 21st Century zeitgeist — he’s basically a rich ’80s and ’90s guy who’s hung in there.”
KATE WARD, EW.COM: “I can’t help but hope he elevates his hosting gig slightly past a G-rated level. It’s true that the Academy Awards have been experimental over the past few years, but there’s a reason the 2011 Golden Globes were one of the most buzzed-about TV events of the year: Ricky Gervais. Viewers like to see hosts that take chances on the stage, for better or for worse.”
KRIS TAPLEY, IN CONTENTION: “I actually want to see this. It’s fresh (in that Academy way, mind you — Murphy hasn’t done variety show work since ‘Saturday Night Live‘ 25 years ago). It’s unexpected. And, assuming the film is a hit this fall, it could do something for ratings (though probably not much — that has mostly to do with what films are nominated). So color me optimistic.”
GREGORY ELLWOOD, HITFIX: “While no one doubts that Murphy has the comedic chops to be an intriguing host and he’s have many rooting for him to succeed, he’s hardly known for being self-deprecating, topical or even chummy with his acting peers (usually a requirement or two or the job). If Murphy succeeds (no pressure Eddie), it could amount to one of the biggest comebacks in Hollywood history.”
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